Nagorno-Karabakh

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Thursday 21st September 2023

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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There is not a great deal more that I can add to what my noble friend said. I agree.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, notwithstanding the noble Earl’s answers, is he aware of reports only this morning, from Stepanakert, the capital Nagorno-Karabakh, that street fighting is still going on despite the ceasefire announced yesterday? Does he not agree with the points being made across the House that verification of these things is pretty crucial? Have we set in motion the sending of diplomats or observers to see for ourselves what has been happening in the Lachin corridor and now in Nagorno-Karabakh? As the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis, asked, at the United Nations Security Council later today, will we reinforce the call not for Russian peacekeepers —the noble Earl mentioned their inadequacy—but for an international peacekeeping mission and a mandate to require that to be established?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the ceasefire. I had a call on this half an hour ago from the department and, as I understand the situation, we feel that the ceasefire is holding at the moment, and we hope it continues to do so. He mentioned other factors, which are all really important in the whole scale of things. I will of course bear them in mind and make sure that the department is aware of them.

Rhodes Wildfires: Repatriation of Holidaymakers

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 25th July 2023

(11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Forsyth makes a very important point. The first port of call for individuals in Rhodes at the moment is of course the travel operators, which have the responsibility to get them back. More empty planes were sent yesterday—I gather that more are being sent today—and there is a process of repatriating people from Rhodes.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, although the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is right about the responsibility that falls on the travel companies, the Minister is right to say that they have responded quite speedily and effectively in the circumstances. Does the Minister agree that the number of wildfires, not just in Rhodes but in other places, could reach a point at which it is impossible for the travel companies to deal with the numbers involved? Can he tell the House what contingencies have been put in place in those circumstance for the FCDO to be able to assist in the evacuation of people caught up in the fires?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton; he makes a very important point about the assistance to individuals and families on holidays in these areas. There is always consular assistance. We advise travellers in the areas where there are fires to ask for consular assistance, and so far that has been given to a number of individuals.

Saudi Arabia: Mass Execution

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Monday 14th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, I am unsure about the answer to that question; I will get further information to my noble friend. The engagement that we continue to have with the Saudi Government is extensive. Over the last six months, my noble friend Lord Ahmad has visited Saudi and has also had a meeting with Saudi Ministers here in London. Those continual engagements enable us to have these serious conversations.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, do not these executions—there were 67 in 2021, 27 in 2020 and now these 81—demonstrate a horrific and rather brutal pattern? Sometimes these executions are carried out using the sword, and crucifixion has even been used. The mortal remains of those who have been executed are put on public display. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, even children have been involved. Will the noble Earl undertake to speak to his colleagues in the Foreign Office about engaging scholars at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo to see whether we can engage people who are academics and have a firm belief in civilised values, so that we can hear Muslim voices being raised against this barbarism?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the point he makes. I will of course pass it on to my noble friend Lord Ahmad, and his office will no doubt investigate it further.

Zimbabwe

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend. Violence against women remains a serious issue, as she said, with gender-based violence prevalent across all parts of society and reports of it increasing during Covid-19, but Her Majesty’s Government’s support for women and civil society has amplified the voice of women’s organisations within the national Covid-19 response. I should also say that the UK continues to lead the way on what works to prevent violence against women and girls through our flagship safe programme, which will test and generate learning on how to prevent gender-based violence, including domestic violence and child marriage.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, given what the noble Lord, Lord Oates, said to the House about the systematic and considerable attacks that have been made on CCC candidates, can the noble Earl tell us whether election monitors from the international community and the diplomatic corps will be on hand during the forthcoming by-elections but also in the 2023 general election in Zimbabwe? Will he also draw the House’s attention to the admirable statement by the Government of Kenya, which the Government of Zimbabwe should take careful note of, with its condemnation of the occupation of Ukraine by Russian troops?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, yes, we are concerned about the recent incidents of violence targeting CCC rallies. As I said, our ambassador in Harare tweeted to called on the Government to ensure that perpetrators of violence are brought to justice and that all parties can campaign freely without fear of violence. I am aware that two rallies took place peacefully last weekend. The noble Lord asked about election monitors. I am afraid I do not have that information to hand, but I will write to the noble Lord.

Hong Kong: Political Prisoners

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Tuesday 22nd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare my interests both as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and as vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have used the national security law to target pro-democracy figures, curtail freedoms and shrink the space for opposition, a free press and civil society. The UK continues to raise its concerns directly with Hong Kong and Chinese authorities. We continue to urge Beijing to uphold its international obligations, including the rights and freedoms protected in the joint declaration.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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In thanking the noble Lord, I will put to him a question put to me by a courageous Hong Kong activist, Chung Ching Kwong, about young pro-democracy activists most at risk of arrest. Can we be told, she asked, when the Home Office will introduce the promised and welcome new regulations to include within the BNO scheme young people with a parent who is a BNO passport holder and born after 1997? What are we doing to work with other Commonwealth countries to provide an international lifeboat for young Hong Kongers who do not qualify for the BNO, and what estimate have the Government made of their number?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for his question. We are sympathetic to the circumstances of children of BNO parents born on or after 1 July 1997 and are considering what more can be done to support this cohort where they wish to build a permanent life in the United Kingdom. We will continue to bring together our international partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their freedoms and to hold China to its international obligations.

Housing Delivery Test

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Alton of Liverpool
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown
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Yes, I agree with the most reverend Primate. Communities are of prime importance. There has been much movement over the last few years in various areas where there has been large-scale development. Communities have been very much at the forefront in how many of these planning development areas have been established. I know in particular about an area in north Swindon. I declare an interest: I was a landscape contractor there. I did a lot of the planting of trees and the general landscaping. There, it was very important that these developments had a community at their centre. The most reverend Primate also commented on what the noble Baroness said—I cannot remember what she said. I apologise; I will write to the most reverend Primate on that issue.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, in addition to the eight local authorities being immediately sanctioned, what will happen to the 26 local authorities that have been told they will have to produce action plans? How long will they have to do that for and what sanctions will be applied to them if they fail to comply? After all, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, put it, we need carrots as well as sticks.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown
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The noble Lord, Lord Alton, makes a very good point. As he said, 26 local authorities have achieved between 85% and 94% of delivery. They need to produce an action plan to remedy this. We look forward to the planning White Paper, but one should remember that we will also be reforming the fees process for planning applications. This is to ensure that local planning authorities are properly resourced.